Henning Franke's dream was to live on a sailing ship for a longer period of time. In 2016, this was achieved with the help of the Roche Long-term Account. In an interview, he reports about his journey and the way there.
You work as the Head of Digital Transformation RDG. What exactly can we imagine that to mean?
In any case, it is my coolest job ever, because I am allowed to oversee and advance the digital transformation for our German locations in Mannheim and Penzberg. In concrete terms, this means that we have a clear picture of what the sites will look like in the future from the perspective of digitization, especially with regard to production and research. For example, in future we will primarily conduct data-based research and produce individualized products in fully networked plants. We are trying to define the right conditions for the future digital world at Roche.
How, when, what? Briefly summarized - Your history at Roche.
I studied business administration at the University of Mannheim and then joined Boehringer Mannheim. I have been with Roche for 32 years and have worked globally and locally in several departments and the various divisions during this time. This has enabled me to gain important experience in areas such as Finance and Controlling, Logistics, Sales and Marketing. In the latter case, I supported the development of digital marketing, especially on a global level. I have been in my current position for over a year now, which I took over after my sabbatical at the beginning of 2017.
The sabbatical was made possible by your regular contributions to the Long-term Account.
Yes, I saw the Long-term Account as an option to give myself the freedom for all the plans I have forged in my life. However, anyone can use it as he/she needs it. For example, to care for a family member or to retire early. It is therefore a very good way to save money and time for various purposes. Personally, however, I had been wishing for a very long time to take a sabbatical.
During your time-out, you went on a longer trip. Where did you go?
My wife and I had always dreamed of living on a sailing ship for a longer period of time. We fulfilled this during this time. We started in May 2016 in Northern Europe and sailed towards Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal via the Balearic Islands to Sardinia and Corsica. On the second Advent we arrived at the island Elba after eight months.
What did you learn for and about yourself from that time?
From my current role I would say: It was "digital detox"! We had the chance to get away from it all. We experienced unforgettable impressions of nature, interesting encounters with different people and a completely new independence. That time gave me a completely new view of life and the really important things in life came to the fore once again. Of course it was also a precious time for our partnership.
How was it returning to work after that?
I'm asked that a lot. I always like to compare this with the children's books "The Chronicles of Narnia", in which the children walk through a wardrobe and come out into another world. The time on the ship was like a dream world for us, so it can easily happen that the everyday world becomes small and almost strange. But as soon as you return to it, it is very present again and the time you experienced before becomes a dream world.
The knowledge that I would get the chance to take on a new challenge after my sabbatical time helped me a lot - even though I only found out shortly before the end which one. This definitely motivated me to return to the company after such a long time away from work.
How long in advance should one discuss this wish with one's superior?
You should inform your superiors at least six months in advance so that they can then set the necessary course. I myself informed my superiors even earlier so that we could plan this well on both sides.
So, would you recommend this investment to others?
Absolutely. I raise this issue very often with my colleagues, because you cannot know exactly what you will be facing in life and you gain many options and flexibility as a result. I am also approached by colleagues who would like to find out more about the process and how Roche's support works. Here, too, I can only report positive things, because I received very good support both from management and from my direct supervisor. After all, the company is also interested in employees' continuous development and that includes being able to realize their life's dreams without having to quit their jobs. I think it's great that Roche makes this possible for its employees.
Last but not least: What do you do in your spare time? What is your balance to your job?